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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Stage 17


Hola. As the CN blimp lifts off, the riders are in the neutralised section of the stage.  

They face 157km of racing but have been riding for 20 minutes or so already.


The riders are packed behind the red race director's car ready to launch the first attacks of the day. 


The riders are passing through Bilbao now.

The Spanish national tour first returned to the Basque Country after years of political tension and protests in 2011 with two stage finishes in Bilbao and Vitoria.

Local hero Igor Anton won in Bilbao.

La Vuelta also visited the Basque Country in 2012.

157km remaining from 157km

The flag drops. The stage is under way! And the first attacks come thick and fast.


The neutralised section lasted almost half an hour. That means an extra 20km or so for the riders. 


On the long wide road along the river, the peloton is able to chase down the attacks.


The riders head north to the coast but then return in land. The first climb, the Alto de la Arboleda comes with 140km to go. 


However the stage will be shaped by the final climb up to the finish at  Balcon de Bizkaia. 


Alasdair Fotheringham wrote a special stage preview earlier.


Click here to read about the steep, concrete track that leads up to the finish.  


148km remaining from 157km

An 11 surge is pulled back but a new 4-rider attack goes clear. 


“I’m glad I stopped cycling,” Pedro Delgado joked in his preview of today's steep finish on Spanish television channel TVE.


The two-time Vuelta winner reckons a 30 or even 32-tooth sprocket will be required to make it up the climb.


“The final is so hard it will surely create some gaps, and before the climb itself, the approach roads will make it very hard to control,” local cycling legend Roberto Laiseka, now working with Vuelta organisation, told newspaper AS.


Alasdair detailed the steep gradient of the climb, writing:


As the woods of tall pines fades away and the track winds under the turbines, the ramps follow relentlessly, never dropping below 11% and with stretches of over 20%. There are some short flat sections, but on the other hand, the poor cement surface will only make it even more difficult. The worst segment comes around two kilometres from the summit, where the gradient reaches around 23%, according to the official race book. The climb does soften up briefly, to around 8%, but then there is a real sting in the tail, as the road rears up to around 13% close to the summit.


146km remaining from 157km

Ben King (Dimension Data) is among the most active riders, alongside locals such as Omar Fraile (Astana) and Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky).

We've also seen Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain) try his hand.


The riders start the 6.7km long Alto de la Arboleda climb. It's twisting and turning but the attacks are still being chased down.


The peloton is lined out as Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) goes on the attack. 


Kwiatkowski is also up there, Nibali too. 


This is a solid climb that surely see the peloton let something go away.


141km remaining from 157km

Birthday boy Rafa Majka is also in the attack. Other riders are coming across. 


Breakaway expert Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) won the sprint to the summit of the climb. 


He has no doubt heard that Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) is suffering at the back of he peloton again today. 



Mate leads the mountains competition with 64 points but De Gendt is second now, with 57 points. Ben King (Dimension Data) is third with 56 points.  


136km remaining from 157km

A group of 26 riders have formed on the climb and the early descent. 


It will be interesting to see who is in the break and if it goes clear.


We can see that Nibali is in there. 


Britain's Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) is also in the attack.


130km remaining from 157km

Also in the 26-rider attack are De la Cruz of Quick Step, Herrada (Cofidis), Zakarin (Katusha), Mollema (Trek), Woods (EF), Fraile (Astana) and even Amador of Movistar. 


With so many teams in the move, it is difficult to understand who will chase the attack.  


124km remaining from 157km

The climb and fast racing has spat some riders out of the break. There are 21 riders up there now, with the peloton at over 2:00.


Five riders are chasing the break but they're slipping back.  


Only three teams are not present in the break of the day: Groupama, LottoNL and Mitchelton-Scott of race leader Simon Yates.


120km remaining from 157km

These are the riders in the breakaway. 


Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alexandre Geniez (AG2R-La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi, Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team), Rafal Majka, Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Andrey Amador (Movistar Team), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Dimension Data), Simon Clarke, Michael Woods (Education First-Drapac), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), David De La Cruz, Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky), Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Cristian Rodríguez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jesus Herrada, Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) and Hector Saez (Euskadi).


Mitchelton-Scott is leading the peloton but it is likely that this attack will stay away and fight for the stage victory.


Of course we can expect a fight amongst the GC riders on the steep, rough road to the finish at Balcon de Bizkaia.   



114km remaining from 157km

The break leads by 4:00 now. 


The 21 riders are all working smoothly together, taking turns on the front and then quickly moving down the double line. 


It's a quality break that is often seen in the third week of Grand tours and especially the Vuelta.


111km remaining from 157km

Earlier both Omar Fraile (Astana) and Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky) had a chance to say hello to their family and friends.


Castroviejo is from Getxo, while Fraile waved to his family and friends after 30km of the stage. 




107km remaining from 157km

The race is back into the centre of Bilbao, passing close to the stunning and very modern Guggenheim Museum.  


105km remaining from 157km

Pieter Serry (Quick-Step Floors) was one of the five riders distanced from the break. but he refused to give up and is fighting his way back up to the 21-rider group. 

He's going deep but does not want to miss the move. 


Fraile won the intermediate sprint in Bilbao but now the riders face a short but steep climb out of the Basque city.  


It is the start of 50km of rolling roads, which is followed by a far hillier 40km and the climb up to the finish. 


The Balcon de Bizkaia climb is 7.3km long, with an average gradient of 9.7%. however the narrow and rough concrete road makes it even harder.


Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data) has also made it back up to the break. That makes 23 riders yup front now.



99km remaining from 157km

The riders are back on a wide highway and the break is hesitating slightly. Perhaps some riders are not doing their share of the work. 



Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Jose Mendes (Burgos-BH) are back up front, making for 26 riders in the break. 


The return of the five indicates the speed is not high. 


However the break leads the peloton by  7:00 now.


97km remaining from 157km

David de la Cruz (Team Sky) is the highest placed rider on GC in this break, 12:01 down on Simon Yates.

96km remaining from 157km

The break's lead is 7:15 as Mitchelton-Scott ride on the front of the peloton. The escapees are a little over 20km away from the next climb, the category 3 Alto de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.


Simon Yates leads the Vuelta, Movistar still have two options and Steven Kruijswijk rode his way into contention with a fine display in yesterday's time trial in Torrelavega. The GC battle is wide open as the Vuelta faces into its final act. Patrick Fletcher has more here.


87km remaining from 157km

The gap between the break and the bunch has settled at around 7:15 for the time being, with Mitchelton-Scott continuing to set the tempo. Movistar and LottoNL-Jumbo have delegations lined up behind them.


Alejandro Valverde moved into pole position in the Movistar hierarchy thanks to his time trial display yesterday, but the Spaniard dismissed the idea that he is now the sole leader ahead of Nairo Quintana. Read the full story here.


82km remaining from 157km

The break's lead stretches out a little further, and now stands at 8:20.


75km remaining from 157km

The break has hit the base of the Alto de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (3.8km at 7.6%). Their lead over the bunch stands at 8:15.


72km remaining from 157km

The break is on the Alto de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe climb now. It is 3.8km long at a gradient of 7.6%.


The mist is rolling on, making for a cooler finale. 


We can expected a battle for the climber's points soon.  


De Gendt jumps first and takes more points.

He's followed by Mollema, who is also targeting the mountains jersey. 



De Gendt scored 3 points and so is even closer to mountains leader Mate of Cofidis.

The Belgian could even take the blue polka-dot jersey on today's stage. There are two other minor climbs before the finish and then the category 1 climb up to the finish. 


The race is again near the stunning Basque coastline.  The sun often breaks through the mist to highlight the stunning countryside.


62km remaining from 157km

Vincenzo Nibali takes a turn on the front an tries to convince other riders to do the same.

The gap to the break is 8:20 now. 



58km remaining from 157km

Mitchelton-Scott continues to lead the peloton but their pace is steady, they do not seem interested in setting up Yates for a possible stage win. 


Movistar and other GC teams have also kept their powder try today, no  doubt thinking about the two decisive stages on Friday and Saturday in the Pyrenees.


54km remaining from 157km

The sun is back out and the riders in the break are taking turns on the front. 


Nibali, Majka, Kwiatkowski and Woods all have teammates helping them keep the gap high, so they can go on to fight for the stage victory. 


50km remaining from 157km

This is the quiet before the storm, with the riders gathering their thoughts and trying to stay fresh for the finale.


The final 40km include three categorised climbs and then the steep haul up to Balcon de Bizkaia. The break and the peloton will surely explode on the steep final climb, if not before.



Simon Yates is tucked safely on the wheels of his Mitchelton-Scott teammates.



43km remaining from 157km

The break is on the first climb of the Alto del Balcon de Bizkaia. 


As Alasdair Fotheringham explained in this preview, the riders tackle the climb from different sides. 


This first assault is 7.3km long at 4.3%. It shouldn't cause any problems but we can see the Euskadi team is now leading the chase. It must be down to local pride as they also have Saez in the attack.  


39km remaining from 157km

Our man Patrick Fletcher is at the summit finish to speak to riders after the stage. He sent these images, revealing just what the riders face on the steep climb to the finish. 


This is the final kilometre between the wind turbines. The steepest roads climb up the side of the mountain.


This is the finish line. 



37km remaining from 157km

Euskadi keep the pace high behind, bringing the gap to he break down to 5:30. 


Who else? De Gendt attacks near the top of the climb to secure more KOM points. 



He is first to top of the 2nd climb and so is the new leader of the blue polka-dot mountains jersey. He will pull on the jersey at the end of the stage. 


32km remaining from 157km

Euskadi has their whole team on the front driving the chase. 


They clearly wanted to be in the action today, perhaps with stage 13 winner Oscar Rodriguez. Indeed, today's finish is very similar to La Camperona. 


28km remaining from 157km

De Gendt now leads the mountains competition with 68 points. Mate has 64, with the USA's Ben King third with 54 points. 


24km remaining from 157km

Next up is the Alto de Santa Eufemia (4.5km, 5%). Could it be the launch pad for the first attacks from the break? 


22km remaining from 157km

Perhaps Euskadi's chase has served for something. 

The Astana team is also setting the pace. That could be in the hope that Lopez can win the stage or at least to set him up for an attack so he can gain time on GC. 


He needs it after losing precious seconds in the time trial on Tuesday. 


Thomas De Gendt is also setting a fast tempo up front in the break. So much so that riders are being spat out of the back of the break. 


De Gendt  is riding to be top the climb first. 


Indeed De Gendt takes three more points, extending his new lead in the mountains competition. 


17km remaining from 157km

Here we go! Geniez and Simon Clarke have opened a gap on the descent. 




There is no real chase behind, other riders are attacking. 


It's the start of the finale! 


14km remaining from 157km

Nibali is on the move as Geniez and Clarke come back into the fold. 


12km remaining from 157km

Astana is still driving the pace for Lopez even though the gap remains at 4:40


Lopez will be expected/obliged to attack on the climb to the finish after his teammates worked so hard.  


The mist has come on the top of the climb. This is view now. 



10km remaining from 157km

The climb to the finish is 7.3km long at an average of 9.7%. This will hurt. 




7km remaining from 157km

The break have hit the foot of the final climb with a lead of 4 minutes over the peloton.

6km remaining from 157km

Simon Clarke (EF-Drapac) attacks off the front of the break and opens a small gap.


Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) lead the pursuit of Clarke.


Clarke is brought back by Amador. The Australian's attack has strung out this front group.


Back in the main peloton, Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates) is a faller on the sweeping descent that leads into the final climb. His kit is torn and he bloodied and bruised, but the Sardinian has gingerly remounted and continues in the race.


Astana lead the bunch onto the foot of the climb, laying the groundwork for Miguel Angel Lopez. Simon Yates is well placed behind the Colombian.


5km remaining from 157km

Up front, Alessandro De Marchi sets the tempo in the leading group, with Teuns tucked in behind him. Some riders have been jettisoned off the back, but there are still 15 or so riders in contention for the stage win, including Jai Hindley, Vincenzo Nibali and Ilnur Zakarin.


Astana continue to lay down the tempo in the red jersey group. Yates, Kruijswijk and all of the podium contenders are still up there just behind Lopez.


4km remaining from 157km

Still De Marchi leads for BMC. The escapees are 3:20 clear of the bunch, where Bilbao rides on the front for Lopez.


3km remaining from 157km

The break reaches the stiffer gradients on the upper slopes of the climb. Kudus, Geniez, De La Cruz, Castroviejo and Nibali are showing signs of suffering, but they are still hanging in there. Majka looks comfortable near the front of this break.


3km remaining from 157km

After grimacing on the back, Geniez has now forced his way to the front of the break. He doesn't look at all comfortable, but he sets the tempo with Fraile and Majka tucked in behind him.


3 minutes down the road, Bilbao's pace-making has dramatically whittled down the red jersey group. It seems that Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has been distanced. Lopez, Kruijswijk, Yates, Mas, Valverde and Quintana are all still present.


3km remaining from 157km

De Marchi pushes on at the head of the race, with Michael Woods tracking him closely. The front group is fragmenting on this stiff gradients.


Back in the red jersey group, Alejandro Valverde has attacked. Jack Haig and Adam Yates pace Simon Yates back up to him. The rest of the red jersey group follows.


3km remaining from 157km

Dylan Teuns, Michael Woods and Rafal Majka open a small gap at the front of their race, but they can't quite shake off the rest of this front group.


The red jersey group is splintering to pieces on this steep gradient with a shade over 3km to go. Adam Yates leads his brother Simon, with Valverde, Mas, Kruijswijk and Lopez behind them. Quintana shows signs of struggling, but he remains in contact. Uran, Pinot and Izagirre have been dropped.


Quintana is alone, around 20 metres behind the red jersey group. The Colombian seems to be losing more ground as Adam Yates piles on the pressure.


2km remaining from 157km

The break is grinding its way up the 25% slopes of the climb now. David de la Cruz (Team Sky) leads with Teuns, Majka, Woods, Rossetto and Zakarin still in contact with him. Fraile is flitting off the back of this group.


2km remaining from 157km

 The break is grinding its way up the 25% slopes of the climb now. David de la Cruz (Team Sky) leads with Teuns, Majka, Woods, Herrada and Zakarin still in contact with him. Fraile is flitting off the back of this group.

Only Teuns and Woods can follow De la Cruz's forcing on the steepest section. Mahka is just behind them, with the rest of the break scattered across the hilsside.


Quintana has been definitively dropped by the red jersey group. He is more than 40 seconds down on Yates et al with more than 2km of climbing to go.


1km remaining from 157km

De la Cruz accelerates, but Majka, Teuns and Woods stay with him. One of this quartet will win the stage.


1km remaining from 157km

Another acceleration from De la Cruz. Only Woods can follow initially, but Majka and Teuns claw their way back up beneath the flamme rouge.


Majka attacks with 800 metres to go. He presses hard, but his companions all track his wheel...


Michael Woods is the next rider to kick. He can't snap the elastic and when he swings over, Dylan Teuns has a go and opens a small gap...


Back in the red jersey group, Lopez attacks and the Yates brothers lead the pursuit...


Up in front, Woods has pegged back Teuns. With 400 metres to go, the Canadian launches another acceleration of his own and Teuns can't respond...


Woods inches his way through the fog and against the 15% gradient with a small lead over Teuns and the rest. If he can keep the gear turning over, the stage win is his...


Michael Woods peers back through the mist. He must realise he has this in the bag, though Teuns is not giving up...


Michael Woods (EF-Drapac) wins stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana.


Dylan Teuns (BMC) is second. De la Cruz takes third ahead of Majka. The rest of the break spills across the line in ones and twos.


The red jersey group is in the final kilometre. A struggling Quintana is alone behind them. We have no television camera on the red jersey group for the time being, so it is unclear if Lopez is still trying to break Yates.


Deep into the final kilometre, Enric Mas leads Valverde and Simon Yates into the clouds. Lopez has lost some ground to this trio in the last kilometre.


Valverde accelerates and only Mas can follow. They come in 2:41 down. Simon Yates comes in at 2:49.


Lopez conceded a handful of seconds to Yates, who will keep the red jersey. 


Quintana catches Kruijswijk within sight of the line, but they come in 3:44 down on Woods - and around a minute down on Valverde and Yates.




1 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 4:09:48
2 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:05
3 David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky 0:00:10
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:13
5 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:38
6 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:44
7 Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data 0:00:48
8 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:51
9 Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb 0:00:55




1 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 4:09:48
2 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:05
3 David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky 0:00:10
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:13
5 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:38
6 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:44
7 Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data 0:00:48
8 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:51
9 Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb 0:00:55
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:01:4

General classification after stage 17:        


1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 69:05:34
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:25
3 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:22
4 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:01:36
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:48
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:11
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:04:09


General classification after stage 17:

1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 69:05:34
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:25
3 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:22
4 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:01:36
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:48
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:11
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:04:09
8 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:04:36
9 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:05:31
10 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:05 

Simon Yates lost a few seconds but says he was happy to get this stage over with. Here's what the race leader had to say:

"Of course I wouldn't have liked to have lost time, but those two guys in front of me were very strong there in the final. I did a good ride and I'm happy with what I did. Adam was there with me for the entire climb, he did a really good job. Today was the day I was most worried about, so I'm happy to have it over with.

"We deployed our secret weapon there, my brother. We've been saving him for this part of the race. He did a great job today, not just him but all the team had my back. It was really good."

When asked about the time gaps and if he should only be watching Valverde, Yates said:

"Everybody is still dangerous. I don't know the GC properly yet, but for sure the gaps are still small. It was a difficult climb, but everyone was still there with 1km to go except for maybe one or two guys."

Michael Woods was emotional in his post-win flash interview, revealing a family tragedy:

"It's hard to describe, I won, there were so many people on the side of the road screaming.

"My directeur Juanma [Garate] was on the radio and he said 'do this for your family'.

"My wife and I, my wife had a stillbirth two months ago, we lost the little guy, his name was Hunter. The whole time I was going up the climb I was thinking of him I wanted to win so bad for him and I did."

Poor Nairo Quintana lost almost a minute to Yates on the stage. It looks like Valverde is the undisputed team leader, with Quintana at 2:11 on GC. Here's what he had to say about his 'jour sans'

"I just didn't have any strength. I'm OK but I had absolutely nothing left, the good thing is Alejandro [Velverde] is ahead and the team is working. Of course we'll keep going.

"We can still find some more time, it all depends on team strategy. We want to win the race, it has nothing to do with Alejandro or me. He is strongest.

"It cost me an awful lot out there, it was so difficult to keep the pace. I lost time today but the important thing is Alejandro is still there."

That concludes our coverage of the Vuelta a Espana stage 17. Come back for more tomorrow!

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